Friday 22 May 2009

Policy Watch

Pre-Budget announcement of "New fund to support critical social services"

A new fund to be known as the Community Response Fund was announced in a speech by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett on Wednesday 20 May. As covered by Simon Collins, social issues reporter at the NZ Herald, several hundred people were invited to the announcement, made at Auckland's Ellerslie Race Course.

The fund "will be targeted at those groups facing increased demand for services, or severe financial difficulty due to the recession". Applicants will need to meet a range of criteria and regional panels with community representation will approve applications. As reported in the NZ Herald there will be 12 regional panels, "with funding for each region based on population and deprivation levels". Furthermore funding under the Community Response Fund would be distributed in blocks of $50,000 with a maximum of $100,000 per organisation in each funding period or "four-monthly tranche". It was reported that six agencies with national contracts will not have to go through the regional panels.

This has been described as a 'reshaping' of the Pathway to Partnership funding, and in the words of the Minister is not a permanent top-up. NZCCSS Vice President Ruby Duncan was present at the announcement and the NZCCSS issued a media release on the day that praised the announcement about funding as a good basis to meet the increasing social services needs arising from the recession and for further discussion and development of a long term funding model. See also responses from Barnardos and Relationship Services.

Attention now shifts to the full Budget announcement scheduled for next Thursday 28 May. The Researchers Network convened by NZCCSS will be focusing on the implications of the Budget at its next meeting on Wednesday 10th June in Wellington. Another topic at that meeting will be the development of NZCCSS’s tentatively titled ‘Recession Impact Reports’ in which we will be drawing on various datasets from a number of member agencies, other NGOs and government departments to monitor the social impact of the recession on vulnerable people. These reports will be available four times a year, with the first report expected out at the end of June.

Sallies experience huge demand for services

The Sallies recently launched their annual appeal and in the media coverage reported alarming increases in the demand for their services – a 44% increase in the numbers of people seeking food assistance comparing the first quarter of 09 with 08, 28% increase in demand for budget services and a whopping 52% increase in people seeking counselling services.

NZCCSS Parliamentary Submissions

In the last couple of weeks Trevor McGlinchey, NZCCSS Executive Officer, and I have attended two select committees to present oral submissions.

The first submission was to the Social Services Select Committee on the CYF Youth Court Jurisdictions and Orders Amendment Bill. Known colloquially as the ‘bootcamps’ bill, this legislation introduces National’s Fresh Start policies for young offenders. We opposed the widening of the Youth Court Jurisdiction to 12 and 13 year olds and we opposed military style camps. We did however support any moves that increase investment in programmes and activities to help address some of the underlying causes of offending such as those offered by widening the sentencing options available to the Youth Court. We supported being time generous in interventions but not necessarily in doubling residential orders, as interventions in community settings involving families are generally more effective (and cheaper). For a copy of our written submission check out publications on

We also presented an oral submission to the Law and Order Select Committee on the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill (sometimes referred to as the Three Strikes bill). NZCCSS is opposed to this bill which seeks to change the sentencing and parole laws to enable third time serious offenders to be imprisoned for 25 years with no parole. In essence we opposed the Bill because we did not believe that it would be effective in reducing violent crime. Three strikes approaches have been a resounding failure elsewhere. Getting tough on crime approaches do not work as a deterrent and the removal of parole for prisoners with long sentences makes rehabilitation more difficult increasing the risks for prisoners and prison staff. For a copy of our written submission check out publications on

Sale and Supply of Liquor Enforcement Bill

Many of you will be aware of the Government's Sale and Supply of Liquor Enforcement Bill. This bill seeks to implement recommendations from recent reviews re the sale and supply of liquor to minors and liquor enforcement issues. While NZCCSS did not make a submission on this bill one of our members, The Salvation Army has called (via media release) for the government to abandon this bill and to instead carry out a much more fundamental review because of the level of harm caused by the misuse of alcohol.

Gambling Amendment Bill (No 2) - back before Parliament

Two years after NZCCSS presented its oral submission, the Gambling Amendment Bill (No 2) is back in Parliament for its second reading. Although intended to be a Bill of largely “technical” adjustments to the Gambling Act, many concerned groups have used the opportunity to call for more comprehensive changes to gambling legislation. In our submission in 2007 NZCCSS called for stronger controls over gambling in this country as the Gambling Act has not gone far enough to minimize the damage caused by gambling. NZCCSS recommended that a full review of the Act take place to assess its impact in achieving it aims. Our full submission can be found at our Publications Library. See also Sue Bradford’s speech on the Second reading of the Bill on 12th May.

Caregiver’s role in the infant brain development critical

A new report (links to PDF) by Charles and Kasia Waldegrave on the importance of a nurturing environment on brain development in infants has been published. In a media release Dr Pryor from the Families Commission comments on the importance of early intervention, as does the NZ Childcare Association in their media release.

Good news for carers in NZ and Australia

Tariana Turia has announced that there is to be a $3.5m fund to support people who care for disabled relatives at home. The Australian government recently launched a report with 50 sweeping recommendations to improve the lives of the country's 2.6 million carers. Meanwhile Labour Associate Health spokesperson Luamanuvao Winnie Laban has expressed concern that ourelderly will the first to suffer from cuts to home support

Child Protection in Australia

Other reports recently released in Australia are The National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children and a Time for Action report. The former is a long term national plan to deliver a “substantial and sustained reduction in child abuse and neglect in Australia”. The Time for Action report makes recommendations that tackle unacceptable levels of sexual assault and domestic and family violence in Australia.

New Zealand gets 'A for Average' rating in its commitment to early childhood

In commemoration of Mother's Day, Save the Children has released its 10th annual State of the World's Mothers, which focuses on the link between investing in early learning opportunities for young children and school success. NZ fails in 4 out of 10 areas because of inadequate parental leave provisions and insufficient investment in early childhood services, lack of universal outreach services and child poverty rates that are too high. The full report can be found at

Robots in Aged Care will never make the beds?

Perhaps we should 'never say never' about technological possibilities but the limits and also the possibilities for robotics in aged care. In NZ research is currently taking place on developing an “aged-care robot” testing a Korean developed robot to make IN usable in aged residential care settings. As related reading, the Brisbane Times recently ran an article exploring the application of robotics technology used in mining to other areas.

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